Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Lessons about Handerchief Rag Quilts

A while back I got an order for Two Hanky Rag Quilts.  The customer would be sending me her vintage hankies to make two quilts for her nieces.  I didn't give it a second thought until I saw her hankies.  UH OH!  Almost all of them were either all white or mostly white with a small bit of embroidery on a corner.

It was easy to divide the hankies into 2 groups since they were so similar.  My dilemma was making these hankies stand out.  I know that white hankies on the normal white background makes for a boring quilt.  I also know that backing white hankies with any color changes the color of the hanky and I like to keep the true colors.  So here's what I did.

I cut a piece of white muslin a little bit smaller than the hanky and centered it beneath the hanky.  This would keep the hanky color white no matter what colors came next.

For the first quilt I used a printed fabric featuring rosebuds.  I layered the hanky with the muslin centered on top of the rosebud squares.  I saw that you still could see the fabric print underneath the hanky.

I knew all the squares were going to be 16".   What I had to do was make a frame with the muslin and the rosebud fabric so that only the white muslin was directly under the hanky and strips of the rosebud fabric were sewn around the the muslin.

 Then I placed that square onto two layers of very light pink flannel squares securing all the layers with the traditional X.

In the end I thought the white-ish hankies were still not highlighted in the best way since the rosebud fabric was also light white.  (Luckily the customer loved how the first quilt turned out.)

The second quilt I did the same way except this time I put a pink flannel under the hanky with the muslin beneath and I used the rosebud fabric on the back.

This was what I was looking for!  This really highlighted the hankies and no pattern showed through.

One problem solved however, for this quilt I had another entirely different dilemma. The majority of the hankies were the same size around 13 - 14" so they fit nicely onto the 16" squares.  There were two very large hankies that were larger than 16".  I thought I would have to make all the squares 18" to accommodate those 2 hankies or cut the two hankies.  Both options I did not want to do.

I ended up folding two of the edges of the large hankies in such a way that it still kept the design intact and then sewing the fold in place.  You can kind of see what I did here.

Here is the final result for the 2nd quilt:


 So two hanky rag quilts done.  Two lessons about white hanky rag quilts learned.


  1. Great ideas. I have a box full of hankies, they are mostly white with crocheted edges. Some day they could soon be a beautiful quilt.

    1. You will be so glad when you make a hanky quilt. It's a one of a kind heirloom!

  2. Thank you, that was very interesting. I don't have a box of heirloom hankies to play with, but I do have a lot of crocheted family doilies.

    1. Jenny, You should try a quilt from the doilies! I've been thinking about that too!

  3. Could you make me a quilt from my collection of vntage hankies ? how can I send them to you ?

    1. I could if I knew who you were. Find me in my etsy store Zeedlebeez